E O EkeWednesday, October 16, 2013




or many years some eminent Nigerians canvassed for a sovereign national conference (SNC) as a way forward for Nigeria. After Babangida annulled the June 1 1993 election, NADECO champion the case for a national conference but did not succeed. Instead the political permutations threw up Obasanjo who spent 8 years wasting his political capital and pursuing personal vendetta. Once again the activities of Boko Haram provided a reason for eminent Nigerians to resurrect their pet idea of a national conference as the only way to move Nigeria forward. Their argument stem from the school of thought which believe that to make progress, Nigeria ethnic regions need greater degree of autonomy in a true federation, hence their renewed call for a national conference. One thing that has baffled me about the eminent Nigerians who advocated this idea is the ease with which the military and subsequent governments have outsmarted and side-lined them, even though many of them are well educated and experienced men.

I suppose the reason is their tactics. They have often pursued their objective without appropriate attention to the strategy. They simply convince themselves that national conference is the way forward and focus on achieving a national conference instead of focusing on what national conference is supposed to achieve and considering if there is another way of achieving the same objective using the existing structure. To many of the eminent leaders, national conference is a prerequisite and they believe that without it, Nigeria will not make the progress it needs. With due respect, I would like to disagree with eminent Nigerians leaders and propose an alternative route to good government that may not require a national conference.

One thing that does not cease to amaze me is how the eminent Nigerians allow events to determine their move instead of pushing along with their aims and objective irrespective of events. It would appear that because they are always responding to events that they will always be playing cat up.

I find it strange that these eminent Nigeria continued to ask for the same solution even as the political landscape of Nigeria has changed. The same solution they proposed during the military regime is the same they have proposed during civilian regime. Even the emergence of some democratic institution did not make them to review their plan. Theirs is a typical black man approach to problem solving which derive more from his faith in the method rather its efficacy. Many of these eminent Nigerians served in past corrupt military governments and a few of them took a moral stand on political ideology or corruption. Many of the eminent Nigerians have benefit from the corruption that has brought Nigeria to its knees. They served their respective governments faithfully but today there is nothing to show for their service. The country they served has moved from bad to worse, yet they continue to recommend the same treatment.

Perhaps it is time for eminent Nigerians to ask ordinary Nigerians what they want. Maybe, it is time for eminent Nigerians to take a back seat and allow ordinary Nigerians to decide and determine their destiny. Many of them subscribe to the idea that there are settled issues about Nigeria sovereignty which cannot be revisited. This is not acceptable to ordinary Nigerians. If the new Nigeria will be a reality no option should excluded from discussion. For instance, it is no longer acceptable to Igbos that any group of people can rise up, commit genocidal acts against them; declare their properties abandoned properties because the escaped for their lives and expected to accept it as the price they pay for Nigerian unity. If the unity of Nigeria would require regular spilling of Igbo blood in the way and manner it has been spilled since 1956, the union of Nigeria should be renegotiable. If the root cause of this perennial massacre of Nigerians because of their religious beliefs and ethnic origin is not stopped and the perpetrators brought to justice and rendered incapable to repeating the same atrocity, Nigeria will not endure. No national conference can end the prejudice that underpins these evils. To have a one Nigeria, the ethnic nations that make up Nigeria has to review their religious and ethnic identity to accommodate an over ridding Nigerian identity and this cannot be achieved by a national conference where some people will gather to defend their ethnic identity and advantage. .

Nigerians already know what they want and they include:

  1. Good and accountable government

  2. End of institutionalised corruption

  3. End of immunity from prosecution for crimes for politicians while in office

  4. End of organised stealing of oil and oil allocation to a few people

  5. End of jumbo pay for legislators

  6. Prosecutions of all corrupt politicians, Ex-governors, senators etc.

  7. End of ethnic and religiously inspired killings

  8. Reorganisation of the police to make it effective and accountable.

  9. Separation of the post of Attorney general from minister of justice and reduction of number of ministers

  10. Reform of civil service by elimination the current pervasive influence of politicians on appointment

  11. Reduction of cost of government

  12. Reverting to six regions and ensuring a true federation

  13. Transparent and smooth power transition

  14. Elimination of violence and influence of godfathers from politics

  15. Attraction of well-meaning Nigerians to politics

  16. Universal education

  17. A health service fit for purpose

  18. Restoration of and harmonisation of higher education institutions

  19. End of divisive and corrupting influence of religion in government

  20. Reorganisation of the judiciary.

These and more are what Nigerians want and they can be achieved without a national conference if eminent Nigerians are ready and willing to look at another way of achieving them.

The national assembly should be compelled by voters to debate the future of Nigeria and eminent Nigerians can be invited to select committees to make submissions. How will national dialogue address the legislative issues which require the action of the national assembly which the house is failing to address?

Take the issue of abuse of power and position of responsibility. How will national conference make it impossible for Governors to stop behaving like little Hitlers by abusing their power? For instance, how will the national conference stop politicians like governor TA Orji of Abia state from abusing his position to stop law abiding Nigerians from holding meetings as was recently the case in Abia state. He stopped some people from holding a meeting in honour of someone he does not like? How will a national conference stop the federal government and state governors from intimidating oppositions and using the police and army to subvert the course of justice?

How will the national conference stop politicians in power from continuing to abuse the land use Act to pursue its selfish and party political objectives? For instance, the frequent revocation of Certificate of occupancy of lands of people who criticise the government. How will the national conference make those in power more accountable and fearful of the law, if those who will make these decisions are appointed by those whose power must be curtailed?

How will the national conference stop abuse of immunity by politicians from prosecution for crimes while in office, intimidation of the people, abuse of power and corruption? How will the national conference reduce the cost of government and stop politicians from continuing their wanton looting of the treasury? How will a national conference solve the problem of lack of jobs, out of date education policies and practices that produce half-baked, none enlightened graduates from glorified secondary schools called universities? How will a national conference create jobs and ensure the social investments the country needs.

I have no doubt in my mind that the setting up of the national conference is dubious, because it gives a government that has failed to address the problems it was elected to solve something to distract the people from its inaptitude. The government should be coming out with solutions to the Nigerian problems which should be resulting in bills which the national assembly should be debating and passing into laws. This is how other countries attempt to solve such problems and not by establishing a talking shop to talk about problems that are self-evident. It is unheard of that an elected government and party in power, has no position or views on how the problems s of the country they were elected to lead should be solved and would depend on a conference to tell it what the solutions should be. This is a joke, a typical Nigeria faux pax, where the leaders think that everybody can be deceived.

The leaders of Nigeria has been elected to solve the problems of Nigeria, and the national conference is another admission that the government does not know what to do and not fit for purpose. Government are elected to lead and provide solutions to problems and the Nigerian government should be providing the solutions it has set up a committee to talk about.

It would seem to me a democratic anachronism for a senator, to lead a national conference to discuss issues which the senators were elected to solve. Who will approve the final recommendation of the national conference? Will the conclusions be subjected to a national referendum for the people to approve? What would become of its recommendation if the national assembly or the presidency rejects it? How can the will of the people be subject to the selfish interest of the ruling class? A national conference is useless, if the people who must change to move the country forward will be the one to approve its conclusions. This is why what is needed if the nation must discuss the obvious, is a sovereign national conference which would have inherent power to give legitimacy to its conclusions. How can the national conference be radical, when it is headed by one of the members of an arm of government, whose inaction, lack of imagination and creativity has ensured the persistence of the problems? The whole thing seems strange and incomprehensible from my perspective. Nigerians are once again being taken for a ride. Babangida did the same when IMF asked Nigeria to devalue its currency by 60%. He opened a national debate and the Naira fell from one Naira to one pound, to one pound to more than 250 Naira today.

Nigeria needs a government of honest people who value integrity, and are passionate about democracy, liberty, accountability and due process. A government able to formulate policies, legislations and social initiative to address the problems that are crippling existing institutions and enhancing the rise in the rate of acquisitive crimes and terror. Nigeria does not need a conference to identify its problems. What Nigeria needs is a government that can solve the identified problems. Let us stop this self-deception and charade, and embrace the honest nation building and solving.

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.